Monopoly -- the board game that taught us the phrase, "Do not pass Go! Do not collect $200!" and made us love the concept of Free Parking, while hating the (unnecessary) $75 Luxury Tax -- has seen a variety of different editions created over the past 75 years. (Including, The Simpsons, Harley-Davidson, Disney-Pixar, and U.S. Army, to name a few.)
But, the classic Monopoly board game is modeled after Atlantic City, NJ, with most of the squares on the board representing a specific property that can be purchased and built upon. Making up the rest of the board are squares for Chance, Community Chest, Luxury Tax, Income Tax, and the four major corner squares (Go, Free Parking, Jail/Just Visiting, and Go to Jail). By purchasing properties and building houses and hotels on them, players charge opponents money when they land on them; the goal of the game is simple enough: be the last player remaining once all the other players have gone bankrupt. But with the multitude of ways players can both make and lose money, games of Monopoly have been known to last for hours before reaching a conclusion (or 70 days, in the case of the longest known game).
These lengthy matches have been known to evoke joy for victorious player (see the commercial below) or frustration for those who's Monopoly fun has ended in a heated argument over building hotels or who gets to be the thimble (or was that just my family?).
A complex beginning
The story of Monopoly's creation is a long and complicated one. The basic idea was first conceived in 1903 by Elizabeth Magie when it appeared in a board game she patented called The Landlord's Game. When the patent expired, Magie revamped the game and acquired a new patent in 1924. As the game grew in popularity, it was gradually tweaked by its various players, and when one fan, Ruth Hoskins, moved to Atlantic City, it was her group of friends who altered the squares to represent Atlantic City properties and began referring to the game as Monopoly.
The game was eventually introduced to Charles Darrow, who was such a fan that he began hand-making playing boards to sell and had the set of rules he rewrote copyrighted. Unable to keep up with the buying demand, Darrow attempted to sell his version of Monopoly to Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley, who both turned him down, citing multiple flaws in the game. But as editions created by Darrow continued to sell, Parker Brothers reconsidered and bought the game from him in 1935.
Unfortunately, since Monopoly was never Darrow's to sell in the first place, Parker Brothers had some legal issues to deal with. First they had to purchase the patent for the original The Landlord's Game from Elizabeth Magie. They also had to track down several individual operations who, like Darrow, were manufacturing and selling versions of Monopoly on their own.
Since being purchased and distributed by Parker Brothers, Monopoly has undergone various changes over the years. The game is now sold in 103 countries and is available in over 30 languages, including a Braille version developed in the 1970s. In addition to the many specialized editions of Monopoly mentioned above, there's a Monopoly Junior game for younger players, as well as several different video and computer game versions.
There are also several spin-off games, like the Free Parking card game, the Don't Go to Jail dice game, the travel edition Monopoly Express, and the Facebook game Monopoly Millionaires. Even pop culture wants in on the Monopoly action, as McDonald's frequently offers its version of the game where tokens collected from specific food purchases can win prizes, and a motion picture based on the game is in the works.
The latest edition of the game is the Monopoly Electronic Banking Edition, which uses "debit cards" and a new electronic banking system to keep track of the money in each player's finances. Users on Amazon.com rate the electronic game with 4 stars out of five with most praising it for elevating the classic game and ushering it into a new century. One reviewer happily comments that she first thought the concept was a gimmick, but after playing the game she changed her opinion: "No money to count out. Transactions are done through the well thought out banking calculator. It's also a nice touch that the money has been increased to thousands and millions to account for inflation." On the other side of the coin, there were a handful of unsatisfied users who said that the automatic banking leads to less player interaction and that there is too much guess work since each player cannot compute how much money in their account by using the machine.
But perhaps the truest testament to Monopoly's staying power is that there's an app for that: you can now play Monopoly on your iPhone or Android device. So no matter how you prefer to play, Monopoly, in its digital form, is now more accessible than ever; angrily throw-able playing pieces sold separately.